A decade of environmental neglect to end under Labor

30 July 2022

Ecological collapse, an extinction crisis, deforestation, and the destruction of Indigenous heritage were among the heartbreaking themes from the recent state of the environment report.

The report – produced by some of the best scientists in the country – revealed our unique natural environment is under severe threat.

The devastating findings of the report included the following: we have lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent; Australia now has more foreign plant species than native; the Murray Darling experienced its lowest water level on record in 2019; the Black Summer bushfires burnt out more than eight million hectares of native vegetation; in the past five years alone, an extra 202 plant and animal species and 14 ecological communities were added to the threatened list.

In short, it tells the story of a national disgrace through a decade of neglect and decline.

The report was buried by the Morrison Government and it took a Labor election victory for it to be made public, with Tanya Plibersek, the new Minister for Environment and Water, releasing it last week.

Many Canberrans care deeply about environmental protection. I do too. The May election made it clear that Australians want a government that cares about our environment. The Albanese Labor Government will put the environment back at the centre of good policy.

As French President Emmanuel Macron recently noted at the UN Oceans Conference in Lisbon: Australia is back.

Though there is an enormous task ahead of us, we will prioritise it. Legislating a more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target will be one of our priorities in the first sitting of Parliament.

We will start to undo the harm caused by the previous government by reforming environment laws, establishing an Environmental Protection Agency, and making it easier for First Nations Australians to protect their cultural heritage.

We will set a national goal of protecting 30 per cent of our land and 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030 – joining a global push to safeguard biodiversity.

Australia’s environmental protection scheme is well out of date and needs an extensive rethink. In its 20-year history, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act has failed to protect our unique natural environment or conserve our precious biodiversity as was intended.

The review of the EPBC Act by Professor Graeme Samuel AC was handed to the Morrison Government almost two years ago. Labor will respond by the end of this year, and develop new environmental legislation for 2023.

Labor governments have a proud environmental legacy. We established Landcare, created the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, established and expanded the largest network of marine parks in the world. We protected Antarctica, the Franklin River, the Daintree, Kakadu and the Tasmanian World Heritage Area. We have runs on the board. It’s time to build on that legacy.